On Wednesday, American actor Alec Baldwin entered a not guilty plea to the charge of involuntary manslaughter related to the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie “Rust” in 2021. Baldwin submitted his written statement to a New Mexico court overseeing the legal proceedings, and he opted not to appear formally in court, leading to the cancellation of the initially scheduled first hearing on Thursday, February 1.
Baldwin, both a producer and lead actor in the Western film, faced charges last month for the fatal shooting. The incident occurred during rehearsals on October 21, 2021, at the Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe, where Baldwin, wielding a Colt.45 revolver, discharged a round that fatally struck Hutchins and injured the film’s director of photography, Joel Souza.
Although Baldwin had previously faced accusations in the case a year ago, the prosecution dropped the charges in April, citing “new facts” requiring further investigation and forensic analysis. However, after a grand jury concluded last month that there was probable cause against Baldwin, he was recharged for negligent use of a firearm or lack of caution.
In the United States, a grand jury assesses evidence to determine whether there are sufficient grounds to proceed to trial. If found guilty, Baldwin could face up to 18 months in prison.
Baldwin, aged 65, maintains his innocence, and his attorneys, Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro, have requested a “speedy trial” to minimize public vilification and suspicion while averting risks to proving innocence associated with lengthy delays in prosecution.
The death of Hutchins shocked Hollywood, prompting calls to ban firearms on film sets. While the industry is subject to strict regulations, some argue that these rules were not meticulously followed during the production of “Rust.”
The charges against Baldwin focus on his role as an actor rather than a producer. The powerful US. union SAG-AFTRA criticized the accusation as “an incorrect assessment of an actor’s duties,” asserting that actors are not required to be firearm experts on set. The union emphasized that firearms on a set are arranged under the guidance of various professional experts responsible for their careful and secure handling.
The film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, also faces charges of involuntary manslaughter and evidence tampering related to Hutchins’ death. Investigations suggest that Gutierrez-Reed, in charge of props, may have loaded a live bullet into the firearm that Baldwin was supposed to handle, despite it being intended for only dummy ammunition. Gutierrez-Reed pleaded not guilty, and her trial is scheduled for February.
The circumstances surrounding how live bullets reached the film set remain unclear. The first assistant director, David Halls, responsible for handing the gun to Baldwin on the day of the tragedy, avoided a misdemeanor weapons charge and received six months of probation in March of last year.
After a hiatus due to the tragedy, the film’s shooting concluded last year in Montana under Souza’s direction, with Matthew Hutchins, the widower of the cinematographer, serving as an executive producer. Souza stated at the time that completing the movie had a “bittersweet” taste, but the cast and crew were “committed” to finishing what Halyna and he had started. Baldwin is currently out on bail.